Friday, August 26, 2016

American Vampire, Vol. 2 (American Vampire #2) by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Illustrator), Mateus Santolouco (Illustrator)

It's been about ten years since Pearl and Skinner last met.  Las Vegas used to be a sleepy little town but with the building of the Boulder Dam (Read: Hoover), Las Vegas has seen an influx of people. With drinking and prostitution now legal in order to amuse the workers in their off hours, police chief Cash McCogan wonders if Las Vegas well ever return to the town he was raised in.  When members of the consortium responsible for the building up the damn show up dead through exsanguination, McCogan doesn't have time to engage in a stroll down memory lane. The monsters have crawled out from under the bed and he is ill equipped to deal with them.

Once again American Vampire splits the story between Skinner and Pearl but in the section that deals with Skinner, the story is largely told from the point of view of Cash McCogan.  There's a part of me which is highly cognizant of the fact that Cash's story is predictable. Good guy finds out vampires exist and it doesn't end well has been done before but I found myself drawn in. I felt for Cash when he learned that his adopted father was a vampire all along and how it nearly shattered his world view. For all of Cash's life he has been lied to. I sincerely hope that we aren't done with this character. I want to know what he does with his vampire baby and if he seeks revenge against Skinner.

At this point, I believe Skinner to be just straight up evil which is actually a relief.  We've had an onslaught of anti-heroes recently, so it's weird to have a straight up evil protagonist who isn't troubled in some way or experiencing something which humanizes them to make people find the character empathetic.  There's absolutely nothing redeemable about Skinner. He kills for the fun of it, betrays his allies and is generally unrepentant about anything he's done.

The thing`about Skinner is that he keeps making enemies.  He seems to have more lives than a cat, making it that much more satisfying when the slightest thing goes wrong for him.  Because he is so unrepentant, it's easy to want to see him get his and I cannot help but think that when this series finally comes to and end, it will be with Skinner getting everything he has coming to him.  Pearl may not be actively chasing him, or ready to betray him because he is her creator but others have no such reason for loyalty.

Pearl's story is quite separate from Skinner.  She's settled into a happy life with Henry, but worries about the darkness in her soul.  She wonders if he's content with the life they are living given that she's pretty much immortal and he only has so many days in front of him.  For his part, Henry thinks about the day he will ask Pearl to make him like her and is certain that when it's time to make that decision, he doesn't want to make it from a position of fear.

In this volume we also visit with Hattie. Yes, Hattie survived Pearl's beat down because to kill a vampire, one must destroy both the brain and the heart.  Even though it is Hattie who originally betrayed Pearl, she's determined to get vengeance for the beating she received which lead to her imprisonment. Hattie heads to the place Pearl once said she would retire to when she got out of Hollywood, only to just miss Pearl and Henry.  It's not enough to dissuade Pearl from her quest though.

One of the things that I like best about this volume American Vampire is the world building.  Yes in some sense there's a bit of American propaganda going on with the idea that the European vampires are behind the times and simply cannot compete with the modern American vampire.  It's not an accident that the American vampire is stronger, just as the American Empire is rising in power.  That being said, it is interesting to learn that vampires aren't just lumped into one common group and that different bloodlines have different powers and vulnerabilities.  It helped to widen the world somewhat because now I don't know what to expect from the European vampires beyond their disdain for Skinner.  We still don't have a vampire origin story at this point and I am hoping that is something which is covered in the next volume.

Our other big introduction in this volume is to the Vassals of the Morningstar, a group dedicated to the eradication of vampires.  Felicia Book is a junior member and we learn this when she arrives in Las Vegas because of the vampire infestation.  Felicia of course has an axe to grind because Skinner is responsible for the death of her father Jim Book.  Yes, Felicia is the baby that Abilena guilted Jim into siring. It's certain that Felicia and Skinner will meet again.  I do however wonder exactly what Felicia is given that Jim had almost turned into a vampire by the time Abilena got pregnant.  We're told that she's not quite human by a vampire who bites her.  Felicia clearly falls somewhere in between which probably makes her not only unique but a key to finally doing away with Skinner.  It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Despite the ridiculous bit of info dumping when it came to discussions of Cash's father and Cash's adoption, I really like this volume.  I knew that Cash would pay for his involvement with vampires and even suspected that his wife would pay the ultimate price but that didn't stop my horror or enjoyment of the volume.  I wasn't particularly sold on Volume one but I'm pretty sold on the series now.  I feel as though I have some sense of the world and I can trust that Skinner is just going to be evil without a ridiculous switch and bait to appease anti-hero lovers.

In terms of inclusion, there are still no LGBT characters but at least this volume didn't include any anti LGBT slurs.  In terms of characters of colour, we have Felicia, who I have to assume is an emerging character, given her connection to Jim Book, and the ambiguity about what exactly she is. Thus far, American Vampire is not winning any awards for inclusion.

We're left with several open story lines at this point. Will Hattie catch up with Pearl and will Pearl make Henry a vampire?  How long will Pearl's loyalty to Skinner last and when will they meet up again? Will any of Skinners bad acts finally catch up to him and if so, will it be at the hands of Felicia? Speaking of Felicia, what the hell is she? Finally, what role does the  Vassals of the Morningstar play in the rest of the story.  It's a lot and think it's going to be a wild ride, info dumping or no info dumping.